Soldier home for the holidays speaks to Scarselli students

Minden resident Adele Bachman received the best Christmas present any grandmother could hope for: the safe return of her grandson from Iraq.

"It's absolutely a wonderful present," she said.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jay Bachman returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., in October from a 15-month tour of duty in Tikrit, home of Saddam Hussein.

Bachman spoke to sixth graders at Scarselli Elementary School on Friday. His cousin, Austin Bachman, is in Bob Bytheway's class.

"I'm an Apache helicopter pilot," he told students clad in Santa hats. "I helped out the ground soliders a lot, and the civilians and Iraqi police."

Bachman said there were 24 Apache helicopters in his unit that performed attack and reconnaissance missions.

"We would check out infrastructure, looking at telephone poles and oil pipelines," he said. "When soliders got stuck in firefights, we'd get them out. The best part about it was having soliders come up to me and saying I saved their lives."

Students barraged Bachman with technical questions about the helicopter and his experience in combat.

"We are the only helicopters to have forward looking infrared vision," he said. "We fly with an infrared monocle over one eye. It takes a while to get used to. But you can read the license plate from a quarter of a mile away from the different heat levels of the paint in the plate."

Bachman said the helicopters could withstand enemy fire from the ground because of bulletproof plating along the bottom of the machines.

"We only lost one helicopter in my unit," he said.

A student asked what happens when a Soldier is injured.

"Some soliders go home if it's bad enough," he said. "But a lot want to stay with their buddies. There is this great camaraderie."

Bachman said that fighting was intense when he first got to Iraq but had calmed down significantly by the time he left.

"We'd get a lot of cards from schools and churches, and it was great to hear from people back home," he said. "We'd get too much candy and give it away to the Iraqi kids."

Bytheway lauded Bachman's heroism.

"In the Christmas spirit, I think the students are grateful to find out what some Americans are facing," he said. "Many over there probably wish they were here for the holidays but instead are over there protecting our Christmas."

Adele Bachman is not the only one thankful for Jay Bachman's safe return. His wife Emily and 20-month-old daughter Carla couldn't be happier this Holiday season. The best news is that Bachman will not be returning to Iraq. He will be teaching other soliders to fly helicopters at Fort Bragg.

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